Biography: Born in Medicine Hat, Clay Ellis is an Edmonton-based artist and instructor. After studying at Medicine Hat College and the Banff School of Fine Arts, Ellis sculpted in ceramic and concrete. During the 1980s, he began working in steel, becoming widely known for his massive sculptures in that medium and progressively adding colour and brightness to them.
Ellis also produced sculptural paintings that he says are inspired by the ranch lands of his youth, though their only connection is their titles. They’re composed of stencilled, melted, and translucently painted polyurethane attached to canvasses he paints with a giant Spirograph™-like device. Other works include coloured spindles and blobs resembling colourised electron-microscopy of DNA molecules and genes broken free from them.
Ellis has undertaken commissions for the cities of Medicine Hat, Red Deer, Edmonton, and Vancouver. He’s also created three murals for Edmonton’s Shaw Conference Centre in collaboration with the Art Gallery of Alberta and the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation. Spanning 24 meters, they abstract the vista of the North Saskatchewan River.
In addition to serving on the boards of Arts Habitat Edmonton and the Edmonton Art Gallery, Ellis guest lectured at the New York Studio School, the University of Lethbridge, Red Deer College, the University of Saskatoon, and the University of Alberta, where he was a sessional instructor between 1983 and 1999. He’s been a visiting artist at Norwich School of Art in the U.K. (1986) and the artist in residence at Georgian College in Barrie, Ontario (2003).
Ellis’s solo exhibitions have visited Edmonton, Medicine Hat, Toronto, New York, and London; a range of public and private collections such as the Art Gallery of Alberta, the City of Vancouver, the Canada Council Art Bank, Barcelona’s Museum of Contemporary Art, and the National Gallery of Botswana include his work.